Certain kinds of cancer runs in families and Ms. Applegate’s mother was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 38 and then ovarian cancer at age 54. A gene underlying these cancers (BRCA1, pronounced “brakka one”) was first isolated in the mid-1990s and a genetic test for this mutant gene has been available for a number of years. This test had to be ordered by a physician. In just the past few years, however, advances in technology have led to the emergence of relatively inexpensive, direct-to-consumer genetic tests that can simultaneously screen for a variety of diseases. These developments have been very controversial for a number of reasons and we strongly recommend that you consult with your doctor if you are considering having yourself tested.
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